Friday, July 24, 2015

All Things New: Esau, the Road out of Regret

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

(All scripture today from the NASB)

Rebekah had had the prophecy that her twins were both fathers of nations, but that the younger would surpass the elder.

We don't know much about the boys as they grew, other than Esau loved being outside and Jacob was content to hang around the tents.

Genesis 25:28 states that Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
I wonder, myself, if Jacob was sickly as a child, while Esau grew fast and strong.  That would have resulted in Jacob being kept around his mother while Esau hung with Isaac.  Not to mention that Esau's skill in hunting kept Isaac's tummy happy.  Rebekah, for all that she had left the household of intrigue when she was young, still had old habits and old expectations and old patterns in her life.  And she had Jacob's ear...he learned much from his mother.   Not the least, apparently, was the prophecy that he would rule over his elder brother.

Esau had no such instruction.  He was the firstborn; he had no need of intrigue or even of much thinking.  All he saw was his by right and nature, why should he worry about it?   He was favored by his father.

So, when he returned from a long and fruitless hunting trek,  he let his appetite override his judgement and he swore an unfortunate oath to give Jacob his rights.  I have a hard time believing that he actually thought he was on the verge of dying and could not make it the last few paces to the tents where there was food; maybe he thought Jacob was kidding, maybe he thought his words would not cancel what was his by virtue of who he was.

But the oath was sworn, and Jacob and God both heard it.  And, although he likely tried earnestly to convince himself that  it didn't matter, it didn't change anything, deep in his heart Esau had to know that something had shifted and a line had been crossed. He knew Jacob had to have told their mother.

As the years passed and nothing seemed to change, Esau gradually began to hope that it really didn't matter what he said that day.  He married two local women,  asserting his choices over his mother's disapproval.  Jacob had no bride...and the inheritance would never pass to one who had no offspring.

He may actually have thought he'd gotten out from under the oath the day that Isaac, old and blind with cataracts, called him privately to his side and asked him to go out hunting.  Isaac wanted to eat Esau's special wild game dish one last time, 'So I can bless you before I die,'  Isaac instructed.    Esau grabbed his gear quickly and left without speaking to anyone; his father's blessing would go far to help him lay claim to the inheritance portion due the eldest.  He didn't stop to think that that blessing was also included in the rights of the firstborn he had traded away so long ago.

Unlike that fateful day, he had a successful hunt.  He took his prize back to the settlement, but he did not go to the cooking tents as he still wanted his actions to go unnoticed by the rest of the household.  He stopped just outside the tents and built a fire and prepared his catch as his mother had taught him...exactly how Isaac liked it best.

To all appearances, he had succeeded in his plan to fulfill Isaac's wish and receive the blessing before the rest of the household knew what was going on.  He put the game on a platter and went to Isaac's tent.  'Let my father arise and eat of the food your son has prepared!  I'm here to receive your blessing!'

But Isaac did not smile and welcome him as he expected.  Instead, Isaac turned his sightless eyes toward him.  'Who are you?'  he asked.

Esau faltered a bit. 'I am your son...your firstborn...Esau.'

The old man began to tremble. 'Who was it then, who hunted game and brought it to me so that I ate all of it?  Before you came?  I blessed him...he's the one who will be blessed!'

I'm not sure what Esau did with the platter of food.  He may have dropped it in sudden shock, or he may have turned and set it down as the finality of that statement registered with him.  Genesis 27:34 states that when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry...  all his stealth and care had not changed anything.  The blessing due the heir had gone to Jacob.

I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him.   (Gen 27:40)

Bitter news indeed for Esau.  What he had given away in a careless moment had just been confirmed to his brother.  The best Isaac could prophesy for him was when you become will break his yoke from your neck.

Esau took that to heart, and determined that he'd set the terms of that himself by killing Jacob once Isaac had passed away.  But, to his consternation, Isaac called Jacob to him, and blessed him and sent him back to Rebekah's family to find a wife.

Jacob was out of reach.

 At first, Esau expected his brother to return home soon, with a favored wife from the family,  to supplant him.  He attempted to head that off by marrying a third wife, one of Ishmael's daughters, to try and please his parents as well.

But first one year passed, and then two, and then several.  Esau had sons, acquired livestock.  Although he kept an eye on the road to Padan-aram, Jacob did not appear.  Rebekah died and was buried, Isaac grew old and feeble.   But Isaac's servants cared for him and his property; Esau  realized that, as he no longer had the rights of the firstborn, he also did not have the responsibilities. He had wealth, he had sons, he had everything he needed.  At some point, Esau decided to move his family to Seir.

 No longer was he waiting for his brother to return home so they could have the show-down. He did not need to reclaim the birthright...he had built his own.

He had broken Jacob's yoke from his neck.

The dates in the Biblical narrative are rather imprecise, but we can pretty well approximate that it was at least 20 years before Esau and Jacob saw each other again. Esau heard Jacob was returning home, with what sounded like an army from the rumors he'd heard, so he saddled up and took his servants with him to meet Jacob and find out if he intended to try and take from him what was his.

Instead, he was met with wave after wave of generous gifts.  He was not surprised that Jacob declined his offer to escort the nomads to Seir...they had no part in it and no real reason to go.  But he had made the offer and met the standards of etiquette.  He turned his back to Jacob, and did not fear his retribution.  They were reconciled enough to give Isaac proper burial when he died, and they recognized that they could not live close together because God had blessed them both to the point that the land could not sustain both of them.  Esau took his leave and settled permanently in the land that later took on his nickname...Edom.

A bad choice can lead to difficult, disappointing and irreversible consequences.  But at the point at which we stop blaming others for the consequences of our own actions, God can bless us and begin the process of restoration.

In what area of my life am I refusing to acknowledge my own responsibility for the consequences I am experiencing?  How can I confess and repent of my own bad choices/wrong actions so that God can take what I have and turn it around for His glory?  What is the first step I need to take to move past blame into reconciliation?


  1. You have a real gift for bringing the Scripture stories to life. Thank you.

    1. Aw, thanks, Julie. I think we tend to forget that these were real people, not just stories...